Introduction to Solar System Part 2


The Sun


Physical Properties of the Sun
This is a filtered image of the Sun showing sunspots, the sharp edge of the Sun due to the thin photosphere, and the corona:


Physical Properties of the Sun
Interior structure of the Sun:

Outer layers are not to scale
The core is where nuclear fusion takes place


Physical Properties of the Sun
Luminosity—total energy radiated by the Sun— can be calculated from the fraction of that energy that reaches Earth. Solar constant—amount of Sun's energy reaching Earth—is 1400 W/m2. Total luminosity is about 4 × 1026 W—the equivalent of 10 billion 1-megaton nuclear bombs per second.


Physical Properties of the Sun
This diagram illustrates how one can extrapolate from the radiation hitting Earth to the entire output of the Sun:


The Solar Interior
Mathematical models, consistent with observation and physical principles, provide information about the Sun’s interior.

In equilibrium, inward gravitational force must be balanced by outward pressure:


The Solar Interior
Solar density and temperature, according to the standard solar model:


The Solar Interior
Energy transport: The radiation zone is relatively transparent; the cooler convection zone is opaque


The Solar Interior

The visible top layer of the convection zone is granulated, with areas of upwelling material surrounded by areas of sinking material.


Discovery SOHO: Eavesdropping on the Sun
SOHO: Solar and Heliospheric Observatory Orbits at Earth’s L1 point, outside the magnetosphere Multiple instruments measure magnetic field, corona, vibrations, and ultraviolet emissions

The Sun’s Atmosphere
Spectral analysis can tell us what elements are present, but only in the chromosphere and photosphere of the Sun. This spectrum has lines from 67 different elements:


The Sun’s Atmosphere
Spectral lines are formed when light is absorbed before escaping from the Sun; this happens when its energy is close to an atomic transition, so it is absorbed.


The Sun’s Atmosphere
The cooler chromosphere is above the photosphere.
Difficult to see directly, as photosphere is too bright, unless Moon covers photosphere and not chromosphere during eclipse:


Solar corona can be seen during eclipse if both photosphere and chromosphere are blocked:

The Sun’s Atmosphere


The Sun’s Atmosphere
Corona is much hotter than layers below it— must have a heat source, probably electromagnetic interactions


Solar Magnetism

Sunspots: Appear dark because slightly cooler than surroundings


Solar Magnetism
Sunspots come and go, typically in a few days. Sunspots are linked by pairs of magnetic field lines:


Solar Magnetism
Sunspots originate when magnetic field lines are distorted by Sun’s differential rotation.


Solar Magnetism
The Sun has an 11-year sunspot cycle, during which sunspot numbers rise, fall, and then rise again.


Solar Magnetism
This is really a 22-year cycle, because the spots switch polarities between the northern and southern hemispheres every 11 years. Maunder minimum: Few, if any, sunspots


The Active Sun
Areas around sunspots are active; large eruptions may occur in photosphere

Solar prominence is large sheet of ejected gas:


The Active Sun
Solar flare is a large explosion on Sun’s surface, emitting a similar amount of energy to a prominence, but in seconds or minutes rather than days or weeks:


The Active Sun
Coronal mass ejection occurs when a large ―bubble‖ detaches from the Sun and escapes into space.


The Active Sun

Solar wind escapes Sun mostly through coronal holes, which can be seen in X-ray images.

The Active Sun
Solar corona changes along with sunspot cycle; it is much larger and more irregular at sunspot peak.


Discovery Solar–Terrestrial Relations
Does Earth feel effects of 22-year solar cycle directly?

Possible correlations seen; cause not understood, as energy output doesn’t vary much Solar flares and coronal mass ejections ionize atmosphere, disrupting electronics and endangering astronauts


The Heart of the Sun
Given the Sun’s mass and energy production, we find that, on the average, every kilogram of the sun produces about 0.2 milliwatts of energy This is not much—gerbils could do better— but it continues through the 10-billion-year lifetime of the Sun We find that the total lifetime energy output is about 3 × 1013 J/kg This is a lot, and it is produced steadily, not explosively. How?

The Heart of the Sun
Nuclear fusion is the energy source for the Sun. In general, nuclear fusion works like this: nucleus 1 + nucleus 2 → nucleus 3 + energy But where does the energy come from? • It comes from the mass; if you add up the masses of the initial nuclei, you will find that it is more than the mass of the final nucleus.

The Heart of the Sun
The relationship between mass and energy comes from Einstein’s famous equation: E = mc2 In this equation, c is the speed of light, which is a very large number.
What this equation is telling us is that a small amount of mass is the equivalent of a large amount of energy—tapping into that energy is how the Sun keeps shining so long.

The Heart of the Sun
Nuclear fusion requires that like-charged nuclei get close enough to each other to fuse. This can happen only if the temperature is extremely high—over 10 million K.


The Heart of the Sun
The previous image depicts proton–proton fusion. In this reaction:

proton + proton → deuteron + positron + neutrino
The positron is just like the electron except positively charged; the neutrino is also related to the electron but has no charge and very little, if any, mass. In more conventional notation:

+ 1H → 2H + positron + neutrino

This is the first step in a three-step fusion process that powers most stars:

The Heart of the Sun


The Heart of the Sun
The second step is the formation of an isotope of helium:

+ 1H → 3He + energy

The final step takes two of the helium-3 isotopes and forms helium-4 plus two protons:

+ 3He → 4He + 1H + 1H + energy


The Heart of the Sun
The ultimate result of the process: 4(1H) → 4He + energy + 2 neutrinos The helium stays in the core. The energy is in the form of gamma rays, which gradually lose their energy as they travel out from the core, emerging as visible light.

The neutrinos escape without interacting.

The Heart of the Sun
The energy created in the whole reaction can be calculated by the difference in mass between the initial particles and the final ones—for each interaction it turns out to be 4.3 × 10–12 J. This translates to 6.4 × 1014 J per kg of hydrogen, so the Sun must convert 4.3 million tons of matter into energy every second. The Sun has enough hydrogen left to continue fusion for about another 5 billion years.


More Precisely Energy Generation in the Proton–Proton Chain
Mass of four protons: 6.6943 x 1027 kg
Mass of helium nucleus: 6.6466 x 1027 kg Mass transformed to energy: 0.0477 x 1027 kg (about 0.71%) Energy equivalent of that mass: 4.28 x 10−12 J

Energy produced by fusion of one kilogram of hydrogen into helium: 6.40 x 1014 J

Observations of Solar Neutrinos
Neutrinos are emitted directly from the core of the Sun and escape, interacting with virtually nothing. Being able to observe these neutrinos would give us a direct picture of what is happening in the core. Unfortunately, they are no more likely to interact with Earth-based detectors than they are with the Sun; the only way to spot them is to have a huge detector volume and to be able to observe single interaction events.


Observations of Solar Neutrinos
Detection of solar neutrinos has been going on for more than 30 years now; there has always been a deficit in the type of neutrinos expected to be emitted by the Sun.
Recent research proves that the Sun is emitting about as many neutrinos as the standard solar model predicts, but the neutrinos change into other types of neutrinos between the Sun and the Earth, causing the apparent deficit.

• Main interior regions of Sun: core, radiation zone, convection zone, photosphere, chromosphere, transition region, corona, solar wind • Energy comes from nuclear fusion; produces neutrinos along with energy • Standard solar model is based on hydrostatic equilibrium of Sun

• Study of solar oscillations leads to information about interior

Summary (cont.)
• Absorption lines in spectrum tell composition and temperature • Sunspots associated with intense magnetism • Number of sunspots varies in an 11-year cycle

• Large solar ejection events: prominences, flares, and coronal ejections
• Observations of solar neutrinos show deficit, due to peculiar neutrino behavior

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